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The Cable And The Stream

A few months ago, Google entered the world of streaming cable with YouTubeTV. It made quite the splash, but it’s still unavailable in most of the country. I was really impressed, however, with the channel selection, which manages to cover almost all of the basics surrounding sports programming. The whole announcement inspired me to look at what else is out there in the market they’re entering, and it turns out it’s a lot more fleshed out than I had thought. The conclusion I have come to is that cable as we know it doesn’t have a chance. Not to be replaced entirely by the likes of Netflix and streaming catalogs for binge watching, but by things that look and sound like cable but aren’t cable.

One of the main things that cable has had going for it was that it was the only place to get a lot of sports and there are a lot of households with one or two sports fans (better to have 10 sports fans in seven houses than in three). While it was and is possible for Netflix or Amazon to pick up sports programming, it doesn’t lend itself to it, and it’s really easy for the traditional carriers to use their market leverage to make it difficult for any sports league to go that route. And to date, while ESPN will sell content to its Fox and CBS competitors, they have not sold anything outside the traditional market. What happened while I wasn’t looking was they looked at streaming live TV services and decided that it was close enough to the traditional market to engage. So while YouTube TV remains unavailable in most of the country, you can get most sports programming on existing services such as Sling TV and Playstation Vue. YouTube TV was the first one to offer CBS Sports Network, but that’s a niche product for people like me who like mid-major college football.

More to the point, though, these packages offer one of the big things that cable TV offers as well as more programming than you could ever hope to watch for a fraction of the price. It is, in fact, so much less expensive that you can get Sling and Vue and also throw in Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, and still come out ahead. Substantially ahead. Further, there is little or no commitment.

So how is it so inexpensive? And how are they managing to avoid the bundling cost-creep that infects cable? The two are, of course, related. Maybe not, though, in the way that you might think. At first glance, it looks like they simply save money precisely by not stacking channels the way that cable and satellite companies do. Sling feeds into this perception by calling itself “A La Carte TV.” That’s not entirely accurate, however:

So AT&T should be able to make a pretty good profit with a $35 subscription, right? Wrong. An additional $11 a month goes to pay for 33 more channels that you may or may not want but that network owners push distributors to include in the bundle. If AT&T wants to offer Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN in its streaming package, Disney offers discounts to ensure it also buys the streaming rights for ESPN2, Disney XD and Disney Junior. The list of channels start to pile up pretty quickly.

Sound familiar?

Now, even so, they’re still stacking fewer channels, right? Sling TV offers 30-50 channels, while Dish (which owns Sling) starts at 120 channels. DirecTV proper starts at 150 channels, while their streaming option (DirecTV NOW) starts at 60 and maxes out at 125. Given all of the complaints about bundling and too much content for too much money, how is it made to work here with some of the exact same companies negotiating?

The answer appears to be different incentives. Interestingly, the least expensive streaming option is Sling and the most expensive is DirecTV Now, which are the two owned by the traditional suppliers. DirecTV appears to be targeting more traditional customers, while Sling is aimed at the barely-interested crowd. Both are still cheaper with fewer channels. The same is true of their rivals from outside the industry, Sony (Playstation), Google (YouTube TV), and Hulu. The traditional companies and their traditional product, however, have all the reason in the world to stack the channels.

Some of this is because they face limited competition, but there are between 2-4 competitors for any particular household, so it seems noteworthy that at least three of them (two satellite companies and your local cable company) go the same route. It’s most likely not collusion, and most likely not a coincidence. So why do the incentives run in that particular direction? Most likely, fixed costs.

A satellite costs a lot of money. Laying and maintaining cable to every household in a neighborhood costs a lot of money. When fixed costs are that high, the goal becomes to convince people to spend as much money as possible. It’s the entertainment equivalent of a restaurant offering a half-plate for $6.99 or a full plate for $8.99. Once you have the real estate, the management, the delivery network, and the personnel, it’s not that much more expensive to double the ingredients they’re tossing onto the grill. You want them to order the full plate! You make it worth their while. On a per-channel basis, Dish charges $50 for the first 120 channels, $10 for the next 80, and $10 for the next 50. That doesn’t even include a lot of the ways that they inflate the cable bill such as hardware costs.

When it comes to streaming television, though, the institutional costs are lower, and the carriage fees constitute a much bigger part of the bill. So the costs scale with the number of channels. With Sling TV, you can get 30 channels for $20, 40 channels for $25, and 50 channels for $40. DirecTV Now offers 60 channels for $35, 80 for $50, and about $10 for every 20 channels for a couple tiers thereafter. Playstation Vue presents a similar picture. Because they’re running on existing networks, and paying to the scale they use, they can more easily charge you less for less and more for more in a more linear fashion.

So what does that mean for traditional cable and satellite? Nothing good for satellite, that’s for sure. While cable companies are now in the ISP business, satellite companies still have to pay for satellites in the air. The cable companies’ main competitive advantage is bundling (which, it turns out, people do actually like) Internet and cable. But with AT&T owning DirecTV, two can play at that game. They not only lose on monthly costs, but also flexibility. I could, for example, sign up for one of these services during the football season and then leave it on hold the rest of the year. DirecTV, meanwhile, wants a two-year contract — and needs it in order to recoup their investment in you.

All is not lost, however. For now, cable and satellite still have the advantage if you want All The Channels. It becomes cost effective for you because it’s cost effective for them to sell it to you. So if you want All The Sports, no streaming package will be able to provide you with what they do. The quality of the video is also decidedly inferior when streaming, and right now cable and satellite are the only options that meet a quality control standard that streaming presently can’t. Other things users of cable and satellite take for granted also aren’t available or aren’t available in the same form. For example, even if you get their DVR option, Sling TV won’t let you pause on most channels, which is a dealbreaker for me personally. Playstation Vue lets you do it, but only with a four minute window. Perhaps the most immediate advantage is the availability of local channels. That’s going to be a dealbreaker for a lot of people, though I suspect it’s a matter of time before that’s taken care of. DirecTV literally launched satellites to take care of this, and less is required here. CBS has acquired streaming rights for all of its affiliates for their app (and to be able to bundle to services like these), and that’s probably the future.

The long and short of it is that I am now a convert. It’s not really a matter of the cable and satellite companies being bad and greedy, but they’re holding on to a business model that probably doesn’t make sense in the long term. Most, (though not all) of the content producers seem ready to make a switch to cable-that’s-not-cable, and that includes all-powerful sports. Since it is distributed through existing (and flexible) rather than dedicated channels, it’s simply more economical. And if the current system collapses, it will be able to replicate the old model well enough, and likely at less cost. The cost savings may not be as significant in the future as they are now (indeed, Playstation just significantly raised their prices) but cheaper delivery and more competition probably means more savings.

This is likely to have ramifications up and down, which was always my fear with cutting the cord. I’ve never felt it was impossible for it to happen, but questioned whether it would be good for the consumer. The chief advantage many saw (“Unbundling!”) remains something I have long suspected would result in either higher costs or (more likely) fewer options in the end. But if the end-result of the pressure is shifting the means of delivery to something more adaptable, that could be a win for all involved. Or it may become what I feared, where more content producers were free-riding on the bundling than many suspect, in which case we will have a lot less content at marginally less cost. Or streaming live TV never quite gets over the hump, cable collapses anyway, and in the end we end up having to cut checks to a dozen production companies separately.

I don’t know what the future holds, except that it doesn’t involve two-year contracts, paying $15 a month for proprietary receiver boxes and other hardware, and other things people had been expected to take for granted.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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58 thoughts on “The Cable And The Stream

  1. So have you cut the cord yet or are you set to?

    My prior housemates were paying about $180 a month for cable and complaining bitterly. I told them about cord cutting and went to Best Buy and got them a Roku. They tried it a few days later and loved it. They cut the cord and didn’t miss cable a bit.

    I don’t miss cable either because I haven’t had it since 1983, when they pissed me off by sending me a nasty letter saying I owed them $17.00. That’s over 400 months of cable revenue they didn’t get, and by my calculation that amount is at least three orders of magnitude larger than the $17.00 that I did not owe.

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  2. Not being enough of a sports fan to care about ESPN and the like, I cut the cord long ago and never looked back. Netflix, Hulu, & Amazon meet 90% of my entertainment wants (& an HD antenna handles local fare).

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  3. The problem we have found is that we don’t necessarily want to keep the cable, but we want to keep the DVR. Even though we are watching more and more on Netflix, we’re still also watching a decent amount of network TV too. Shows like The Walking Dead (AMC) or Suits (USA) or Vikings (History). Because many shows now have weird seasons that don’t follow the old formats, I simply can’t keep up with them. The DVR does that for me. Additionally, my understanding with Sling is that you have to watch the show live? That’s almost impossible for us unless it’s a sporting event.

    So right now, traditional cable paired with Netflix and Amazon Prime is the best option for us. We pay a reasonable price for a Uverse and ATT Fiber internet bundle and seem to be able to live with it for now.

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    • They do have DVR options for recording a show, but Sling doesn’t have the ability to pause a show while you’re watching it live unless you’re watching a recording. For most channels. I assume had something to do with the contract negotiations, and Sling will probably get the same deal as the others next round.

      A lot of channels also have video-on-demand so you can watch even if you didn’t record (but you may not be able to FFW through commercials). I watched the first season of Wrecked and the latest season of The Americans this way, both of which aired before I got the service.

      DVR costs extra on Sling but not Vue (or anyone else, near as I can tell) depending on how much you want in your library.

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  4. I wrote on the topic a year ago, from the sports angle. I just went back and re-read it, and I think it stands up. The key for sports programming is that the old model gets non-sports fans to pay in. There will necessarily be an adjustment here. For non-sports programming, CBS doesn’t care how you get their programming, so long as they get paid. But I foresee a more fundamental shift.

    I have found, since cutting the cord, that I don’t miss mainstream network programming, apart from sports, in the least. When I happen to find myself with access to cable, I don’t find it the least bit tempting. This isn’t to say that I don’t consume programming, but I consume it like I do books. I don’t care about reading a book as soon as it comes out so that I can talk about it at the water cooler. If it is a good book, I am happy to read it years after it was published. Similarly with video entertainment, now that I have that opportunity. I am currently watching the Jon Pertwee years of classic Dr. Who on Britbox. This is the Netflix model, and it works great for me. Streaming of networks is irrelevant to me.

    It gets worse. My (elementary school age) kids are largely uninterested in traditional programming. They are entranced by YouTube videos. I don’t mean traditional programming that happens to be hosted on YouTube. I mean amateur videos of Minecraft games or teen-aged girls discussing makeup. If this is not merely a transitory phase, this bodes very ill for the entertainment industry.

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    • One of the things that actually sold me on this is how sports was actually incorporated into the cord-cutting model. That’s what I hadn’t really seen before. (It’s not new, I just hadn’t seen it because I wasn’t looking too closely.) Not the regional networks so much – there are a few available but not many – but almost all of the national ones this side of beIN are. Though I am looking at college and I know some professional stuff is going to be blacked out due to exclusive arrangements (I keep seeing that Verizon in particular has some arrangement with somebody). That’s probably not permanent.

      There’s been a lot of talk in college sports of potential interest from Netflix/Amazon/etc for some of the content. The problem is that the conferences that are all coming up are mid-major and that’s probably not enough to drive people to these services. The ones to watch are the Big 12 and Pac-12. They’re highly rated conferences that draw good TV ratings but don’t hold major markets. Up until now, holding markets has been king of conference TV contracts, but for power leagues with limited geographical distribution, something that looks specifically at eyeballs watching and fan-bases may do better pursuing a new model.

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      • The WWE Network gives one model of what the sporting future might look like.

        $9.99 a month gets you all of the PPVs and, more importantly, *THE LIBRARY*. Want to watch Wrestlemania IV again? It’s in there. Want to relive the 2001 Royal Rumble? It’s in there. On top of that, you’ve got access to a whole bunch of content like their reality shows that just show what conversations between two wrestlers driving from town to town are like, Mick Foley’s “Holy Foley” show, they’ve got a cartoon in there, Edge and Christian’s “comedy”…

        And, on top of that, they’ve got other wrestling shows like NXT and 205 Live.

        And I’m sure I’m missing stuff.

        All the wrestling you could ever want.

        For $9.99 a month. You don’t need cable at all.

        It’s just that if you want to watch the WWE Network *AND* Netflix *AND* Amazon Prime, you find yourself thinking “huh… soon I’m going to get up to the cable bill I got rid of.”

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          • I imagine that there will be something like “Broncos Nation Television”.

            You get all 15 Broncos games a year, *PLUS* the pre-season games, *PLUS* the post-season games.

            Because, let’s face it, you’re not going to watch Monday Night Football if the Broncos aren’t playing.

            Oh, you still would? Well, we’ve got “Broncos World Television” for merely $18/month more. All of the Broncos games *PLUS* pre- and post-season, *PLUS* Monday night games!

            Oh, you want to watch Thursday night games too? Well, we’ve got “Broncos Galaxy!”

            Oh, you want to watch Sunday night games too? Thank goodness for “BRONCOS UNIVERSE”.

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        • Your bill might get back up there, but only if you consume enough of all those channels to make you feel like each one is worth it.

          This seems like a better model for both customers and for the content creators. Except for the problem of “how do people find out about me?” Which is getting harder and harder.

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          • Yeah, that’s probably what it comes down to.

            Make people *EXCITED* to pay $50/month. Make them feel like they’re buying something that they’re using instead of something that they never use.

            Cable’s tactic of throwing 2000+ of extra channels and 3000+ of music channels didn’t make people think “what a great value!” but “I don’t even use 4999 of these…”

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              • When *I* cut the cord, it was after a conversation with Maribou where she asked me “how much do you watch cable, *REALLY*?”

                My answer was: “2-3 hours a month. Mostly the Cartoon Network. Sometimes we get WWF PPVs.”

                She asked me if that was worth $60/month. I boggled. “$60 a month?”

                We quickly hammered out that it wasn’t. If they had charged us $30/month for the box plus Cartoon Network, I don’t know that she would have been inspired to ask me how much television I watched..

                The monopoly of cable stagnated and the internet ran past it full speed and now Netflix and Amazon and Hulu and, yes, the WWE Network are splinter networks in their own right, providing a la carte experiences. Or something that feels a la carte.

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  5. Yeah my hubby had a scuffle with our cable provider (Comcast) over internet which resulted in him cutting the cord in a fit of rage. We then discovered, like angels singing from heaven, that a fiber internet provider had laid down fiber in our neighborhood and started getting ALL THE INTERNETS(tm) for a pittance. That coupled with Hulu and Netflicks basically has us covered for TV and we save like 200 bucks a month which is eye-popping amounts of dukats.

    Also, with a little patience you can get a lot of the network shows. Vikings and Walking Dead, for instance, are available on Hulu about one season behind what’s playing on the networks.

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  6. I just moved into a new place. AT&T said that Uverse was available, but three weeks and three service calls later, it is no longer available. So I’m stuck with Comcast xFinity. Which gives me local channels, HBO and internet at “up to” 25mbps.

    We had DirectTV at the old place, but we didn’t end up using it (my wife wanted to watch baseball). So we won’t be watching much baseball except for when the Giants/A’s are on local stations, rather than their cable networks. But like the Netflix model seems to work pretty well for us.

    My biggest complaint about the Internet these days is that if I want to, say, watch the AFI 100, there’s no way to do that. There’s no way to find someone who’s streaming Citizen Kane, or The Godfather. Ad hoc, some of these are up on YouTube, with commercials inserted.

    I might just have to buy the DVDs and then rip them all so I can blast them to whatever room I want, and not have to find shelf room for all those DVDs.

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      • That makes a whole lot of sense. Fiber is going to gobble up FTTN, which is what they are selling now. And a Comcast Xfinity install takes a couple of days, instead of a three weeks. (But I hate shared bandwidth and want fiber).

        But do you think bandwidth via satellite is in the cards? I don’t think DirectTV offers that, am I wrong?

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          • Depends on how rural you’re talkin’. The town we lived in out west had it, despite having only around 4,000 people in it and being over an hour away from the Big City (population 30,000). On the other hand, the county had some 7,000 people in it, and I would wager most of the remaining 3,000 didn’t.

            To answer @doctor-jay’s question about satellite, the history is a little complicated. There is only one major satellite internet provider, and that’s HughesNet. HughesNet and DirecTV were children of the same parent company a decade or so ago. They operated together, but not publicly. About the only thing DirecTV customer service agents were *not* instructed to try to sell their customers was Internet. It was basically such a last-ditch product that they only offered it to people that wanted it.

            Now they’re owned by the same parent company that owns both Dish Network and Sling. As far as I know, though, there is no bundling arrangement between them.

            It’s gotten a lot better, though, or at least better enough that Hughes advertises more aggressively. The speeds are supposed to be pretty solid and the prices aren’t bad *if* you ignore the limited bandwidth they give you. Download speeds are comparable to DSL, though upload speeds are worse. The pricing structure is more like that of mobile data plans. 10gb/mo is $50, 20gb is $70, 30gb is $80, and 50gb is $100.

            When you run out of data, they let you on at reduced speeds. But the combination of limited bandwidth and reduced speeds would cut into any savings you might have by streaming.

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  7. This is an ancillary comment at best, but just as an FYI, if you travel for work, buy a Firestick. They worked it out so you can use it in hotel rooms and it has made work travel 10 times more bearable. For example, I have the HBO GO app installed on it and after I arrive at my hotel Sunday night, I will be able to watch the Game of Thrones premier with no problems. We’re living in the future folks.

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  8. The problem I see with all of this is that:

    a. “Skinny bundles” or the like will lack one or two of the channels you REALLY want, and the next-tier will be expensive and will come larded up with stuff you don’t want, so you’re stuck with the choice of “do I miss out on a couple things I really like, or do I still pay high freight?”

    b. Similar for streaming services: doubtful any one service would carry everything a person might want, so then you’re paying for Netflix AND Hulu AND maybe Amazon Prime.

    And yeah, what Doctor Jay said: sometimes it’s hard to find what you want on a streaming service. (Though I’ve really only used Amazon Prime, so my experience is limited)

    c. The Betamax issue: you get some kind of piece of equipment that lets you stream, and then they decide the OTHER configuration is the “right” one, so you gotta buy all new equipment….

    I dunno. I still have cable because I’m in a location where getting local channels would be hard some other way (and given how crime in my town goes, it’s helpful to know if someone’s escaped from the county jail just down the street from me) and more importantly, local weather – yes, I know there are websites but they seem less accurate than the best of the local guys is.

    Also, I’ve had internet outages that lasted way longer than cable outages did. Infrastructure is still a thing in some places.

    I think I also resist paying for more streaming services (I justify Amazon Prime because of the free shipping thing) because of the “buffet problem” – “I’ve paid for all-you-can-eat, so dammit, lemme loosen my belt.” Oddly, I don’t feel that about cable, maybe because I’ve come to think of cable as being more like a utility, even though it really isn’t.

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    • Smaller, rural towns can get very good internet service if they manage to solve the collective action problem. The big corporations aren’t going to do it for them, though. I’ve read about towns in ND and Wyoming doing this, for instance. I think it takes putting some technical knowledge together with a bit of political skill, though.

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      • My ISP is owned by the community. When the neighborhood was built, fiber was run to every house, and a small network closet was installed (and most houses have CAT-5 throughout). Every home owner has to pay $45/month for the ISP, whether they use it or not (part of the HOA agreement), and while you can get service through another provider, the community ISP has bandwidth comparable to everyone else, if not better, and you are already paying the basic rate. $10/month more and you are in the 100GB tier.

        I’ve had service through a lot of ISPs over the years and the community ISP ranks among the top 3. I wouldn’t be surprised if more communities don’t start doing this.

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      • I don’t follow things in detail any more, but one of the problems for many small towns in the West is the distance from any sort of fiber backbone. Installing a service based on 100 Mbps switched Ethernet, with 1G or 10G local backbones is straightforward. All that bandwidth does no good if you can’t get the 80 or whatever miles of fiber installed to reach the nearest point with access to “the” internet.

        Some years back the State of Colorado had to subsidize construction of a fiber network that reached as far as the courthouse in each county (although one county still only got digital microwave with all the problems that entails, because the cost of plowing fiber along the side of the road across a 13,000-foot pass was prohibitive). From there, extending the service to schools, libraries, hospitals, etc in the county seat was straightforward. Getting it to another town in the same county 30 miles away was often problematic.

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              • Mostly due to the copper already being there (it is mostly as old as Ma Bell.) Above, talked about the problems with FTTN (fiber to the node) and they are real problems, but in older areas, going in and replacing all of the copper lines, especially for the final 1k feet for FTTP, is prohibitively expensive. In fact, Verizon did this on their land lines and it damn near killed them financially, if I remember right. And, as also has been alluded to in the comments here, we are approaching a sea change in delivery of services, so the proliferation is delayed, as every time we get close to finding a solution, a newer cheaper alternative in infrastructure is developed.

                An example of the former issue is 555 Pierce in Berkeley. Huge apt blocks built far enough back that the wiring in them wasn’t built for digital, so even though AT&T has fiber going directly into the basement, there is no digital service. And as it is privately owned, guess who decides to upgrade the wiring.

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                • Just to be clear here, the thing that’s expensive about this is literal copper, is that right? It’s precious enough for people to break into unoccupied houses and steal it these days.

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                  • Well, it was. If I recall, it has dropped significantly in price lately. But it is also man hours. At $40 per in the bay area. And every home has a line, every business, etc. Some underground, some overhead. Like I said, that last 1k feet is really expensive. And not everyone can do fiber work. Each tech doing it has special training, which is about a week long.

                    AT&T probably could absorb the costs, but why? Copper works well enough, its there and who knows what is going to come down the pipe next. Broadcast of some sort? Cellular will get dialed in?

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                    • Copper works well enough, its there and who knows what is going to come down the pipe next.

                      Depending on the state, there may still be tariffs on the books that require the local phone company to be able to provide one copper pair to each house for certain types of security services. (There are other, nearly as dumb, tariffs still in force in some places.) If you’ve got to have that copper drop any way, there’s incentive to try and find other revenue-producing things to do with it.

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                • this is the same thing with landlines here – old copper. I am fearful they’re not maintaining them; I’ve had my landline go out four separate times in the past six months. I know in some places the attitude of the phone companies is very much “Just switch to cell phones, GOSH” but there are various reasons I kind of like having a landline.

                  In my parents’ neighborhood some utility just went through and installed all kinds of fiber lines. Messed up my parents’ retaining wall doing it, haven’t come back to fix it, though the city – who ordered this – said they should. (My parents are in their 80s so they cannot do it themselves, and I think they should not have to hire someone to fix it).

                  So I don’t know if upgraded wiring is a great thing or not.

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                  • filly,
                    Document, document document. Last time my landline went out, it cost the company $80,000. Seems the feds take a dim view of landlines going out. Ya do need to call them…

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              • Anecdotal observations:
                I don’t know how it is everywhere else, but down here instead of the copper lines running in nice straight lines you could trench next to, the lines look like they were installed by a drunk sail… make that drunk trencher.

                There is all the offshoots to service the individual houses. Also in many locations its less than a foot deep. It’s a poor scenario to try and parallel.

                The fiber guys I see typically run a small horizontal boring machine in an attempt to not trench cut services and utilities. It also helps them to avoid cutting hundreds of driveways and streets.

                Don’t get me started about boring under railroad tracks. I have a sizeable contempt for that industry.

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            • Also microwave, not necessarily running by the obvious routes.

              Back when fiber began to be a serious thing, Mountain Bell fought a long losing battle to get AT&T, Bell Labs, and Western Electric to continue development of microwave systems. As I mentioned, there are still places where fiber is prohibitively expensive to install.

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          • Aerial plant is cheaper to install, more expensive to maintain.

            Designing a fiber network for the rural West is… complicated, given the distances often involved, and the sparsity of other infrastructure. If the run is more than 100 km, a repeater is generally needed. The best repeater site may be miles from commercial power. The fiber run may have to dodge around the end of a federal wilderness designation, adding 50 km to the straight-line distance. The second time a Great Plains ice storm breaks the fiber line, the necessary splices may exceed the loss budget and a large chunk of the fiber has to be replaced. The RUS does cheap loans these days, rather than grants like the REA did back in the days when the original copper was put in. And there’s always the question whether a town of 2,000 people can generate enough revenue to pay off the cost of the 100 km fiber run to reach them.

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            • I see. Thanks for the information.

              I think I’m beginning to see the factors. And they are difficult.

              However, we managed to get power and telephone to most of these places when we were a lot poorer as a nation. We should be able to manage this somehow.

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              • I think the real problem is expectations. When you are getting a party line that terminates in the local post office (if rings once get Kathy, three times get Bob, and its the postman if it rings twice.) And that is what many of the old lines were. It also took Johnson,s war on poverty to get a lot of rural power. And that was a lot of money. If the rural areas are becoming less populous, then good cell is the answer.

                Possibly.

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                • Hang on, though.

                  If you can get cell there, then that cell had to get its connection from somewhere, right? Eh, maybe there’s just not the capacity there, but they had to lay fiber to the cell. It can’t all be microwave relays, can it?

                  Who knows, maybe satellite will work for these communities?

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                  • That is above my pay grade. I would guess (and it is just a guess as I never worked on this sort of project) that putting up a cell tower, and any lines to it, is cheaper than POTS, let alone FTTP. And why do FTTN at that point.

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                  • I actually had a trial this year involving exactly this stuff. Apparently the future is wireless (i.e. fiber to big wireless antennae positioned to serve buildings).

                    The problem with fiber to houses is that connecting a house to an existing line is quite expensive, so even after you pay to lay a fiber line down a street, you STILL have to pay many times what old connections cost just to jack in each customer.

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            • There are microwave relay systems available, and in the boonies spectrum should not be a problem. In addition for the last mile in the boonies the white space on the UHF band is likley available. Now as I look at fiber maps towns that are still on a railroad are likley in luck as a lot of fiber runs along the railroads, as that was an easy way to go dealing with just one land owner.
              Of course for example if you live between Marathon Tx, and Big Bend there is always satellite internet, as likley there you have to live off grid anyway.

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    • Ugh yeah. Our cable provider recently upped their prices so i had to go threw the calculus of which plan we could take or if we could cut the cord. The Wife and i have very few channels we like and they are niche channels so they are hard to easily get. And we don’t’ even watch the same couple of damn niche channels so we ended up sort of stuck. We could get 200 channels of which i watch like 2 and the wife watch 2 or 150 channels w/o 2 of the 4 we actually like.

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  9. I think we’re seeing the “death of cable” but only in the literal sense… we won’t be getting content through traditional cable wiring. As internet gets faster and more reliable, we’ll see all content — even live — shift towards streaming. And then we’ll see stacking and budling re-emerge.

    The benefits of cord cutting are often overrated. Someone did the math on what’d it cost to subscribe to the various providers of popular shows and it quickly rivaled many cable bundles. If you want GoT AND House of Cards AND Catastrophe AND Handmaiden’s Tale, you’re looking at four subscriptions plus your internet. Now, you could sign up short-term and cancel after binging but that takes time and energy, which is not without value.

    So, count me among those who prefers his cable bundle and will only “cut the cord” if it gets dramatically worse or a viable, comprehensive streaming option WITH live sports becomes available.

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    • …we won’t be getting content through traditional cable wiring.

      Define “traditional cable wiring”. Until you get into business service, the cable company is delivering high-speed data over exactly the same fiber-coax network that it uses for video delivery. In fact, DOCSIS-based cable modems intentionally make the downstream data fit exactly into the frequency spacing defined decades ago for analog TV delivery.

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      • Then maybe I don’t know what we mean by Cable. If we’re getting shows beamed to us through a jack in the wall, all we’ve really shifted is who we’re paying. Which certainly matters.

        But my hunch is we’ll build towards Netlu Prime for $89.99/month intro rate.

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    • I don’t think that there is any dispute that traditional cable makes sense for the person who wants everything, or some carefully constructed facsimile of everything. If you are that person, then go forth and pay for cable. Cutting the cord is for the person who realizes that only a tiny slice of the channel selection is being used. Even more to the point, it is for the person who consumes video like going to a library: see what is there and check out what looks interesting. This is in contrast with eagerly awaiting the next episode and keeping current with the water cooler conversation. The shift is quite dramatic, and very liberating.

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      • I’m more of the “My brain is melting and all I have energy to do is channel surf until I find a Law&Order” 50% of the time and “SPORTS!!!” 25% of the time and “There are a half dozen shows spread over a half dozen networks I like watching but don’t need to watch… I’d never pay separately for them on streaming but I’d miss them” 15% of the time. The other 10% is curated streaming. For $110/month for all that with HBO/Showtime (including Internet) and a basic Netflix account, it’s worth it.

        I don’t begrudge cord cutters but bristle at being told I’m TVing Wrong.

        Also kids crap is abundant On Demand.

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  10. Actually this combined with the Microsoft announcement on white space for high speed interent, suggest that over the air TV is also doomed. Of course in the west except for translators (see the list for New Mexico) a lot of places have no over the air tv (Where I live there is only be one over the air station, unless you put up an antenna tower) and the network affiliates transmitters are more the 70 miles away. However the frequencies that over the Air TV uses are valuable for wireless broadband, as the Microsoft white space project suggests. This does raise a question of how much longer over the air TV will be allowed to exist in its current form.

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      • Yes, among other things. In particular, many over-the-air license holders were required to shift up in frequency in order to free up very valuable VHF frequencies. Valuable because of their ability to penetrate foliage, rain, and light-weight walls. Those have since been auctioned off to mobile phone companies, at least in metro areas.

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      • But I am suggesting going whole hog on the issue and doing away with over the air tv completely. That the bandwidth made available by taking all tv stations off the air could be more profitably used by society in providing better indoor broadband as the frequencies in the uhf bands work better in buildings. . Run the programs over the broadband connections instead. Originally I had thought that using geosynchronous transmitting towers (satellites) at their much higher frequency made a lot of sense but it appears that moment has passed.

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